'THIS IS A TEST' — US officials try out presidential alert system

'THIS IS A TEST' — US officials try out presidential alert system
© Screenshot

U.S. officials on Wednesday afternoon tested the presidential alert system that allows them to send an alert directly to U.S. cellphones.

The message, delivered to millions of cellphones around 2:18 p.m. EDT, read “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System."

"No action is needed,” the message added.

An initial test of the system, planned for Sept. 20, was delayed due to the landfall of Hurricane Florence last month. Wednesday's message was expected to reach about 75 percent of all cellphones in the U.S., according to The New York Times.


Officials have said that use of the system for official alerts — which cellphone users cannot turn off — is allowed under a 2016 law signed by then-President Obama ordering the testing of the emergency alert system.

The alerts are issued by the president, or someone designated by them, to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) which sends out the actual alert, according to the Times.

The system cannot be used by law for any purpose other than "to transmit a message that does not relate to a natural disaster, act of terrorism, or other man-made disaster or threat to public safety."

Activists filed a lawsuit last week to block President TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump pitches Goya Foods products on Twitter Sessions defends recusal: 'I leave elected office with my integrity intact' Former White House physician Ronny Jackson wins Texas runoff MORE's use of the alert system, arguing that it could be used for political purposes.

"Without more specific definitions ... officials — including President Trump — are free to define 'act of terrorism' and 'threat to public safety' as they see fit, potentially broadcasting arbitrary, biased, irrational and/or content-based messages to hundreds of millions of people," the complaint reads.